Saturday, 14 July 2012

THE CHECKMATES LTD. - LOVE IS ALL WE HAVE TO GIVE (A&M 1969) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

"Black Pearl" is one of the great Phil Spector productions, a phenomenal song with his extraordinary sound. That being said, it would be easy to try to dismiss this excellent album and focus just on the hit. That's the wonderful paradox of Love Is All We Have to Give by the Checkmates, Ltd. and Sonny Charles. Charles only re-scratched the Top 40 once (and that in 1983), but it is this album which showcases his major voice. The Leiber & Stoller composition "I Keep Forgettin'" has that sound from the 1966 Billy Stewart hit version of Gershwin's "Summertime" without the scat singing. Spector's remake of his own 1961 classic for Ben E. King, "Spanish Harlem," fits perfectly here, while "Proud Mary," the simple John Fogerty title, becomes a gospel tour de force falling somewhere between Tina Turner and the Edwin Hawkin Singers. The indomitable Perry Botkin, Jr., who would hit seven years later with "Nadia's Theme" (aka "The Young & the Restless"), arranges and conducts side one with assistance from Dee Barton. Side two is another kettle of fish. Barton arranges Spector's adaption of "The Hair Anthology Suite" from the play Hair, most notably the material made famous by the 5th Dimension ("Age of Aquarius"/"Let the Sunshine In"). Though both artists probably tracked it around the same time -- the 5th Dimension hitting in March and "Black Pearl" hitting in May 1969 -- there is none of the life here that Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis, Jr., and their group put into their first number one hit. Like a classic Spector 45, this album has one side that is totally inspired and brilliant, and a flip that won't get as many spins. All in all, it's a very important, and largely forgotten, bridge in Spector's catalog and his only hit in America on A&M, the same label he brought the Ronettes and Ike & Tina Turner's classic "River Deep, Mountain High."[allmusic]

IKE & TINA TURNER - RIVER DEEP MOUNTAIN HIGH (A&M 1966) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

The title song was Phil Spector's last major effort, a Wall of Sound production from 1966 that hit in the U.K. but flopped in the U.S., leading to his retirement. There were a few other Spector tracks with the Turners (actually, only Tina appears on "River Deep -- Mountain High"), and an album was scheduled on Spector's Philles Records label. Discs were printed for a 1967 release, but no covers, and the LP never appeared. Two years later, A&M Records (its catalog now controlled by Universal) finally put it out. It turned out that Spector hadn't produced a whole album's worth of material; in addition to his productions ("A Love Like Yours [Don't Come Knocking Every Day]," "I'll Never Need More Than This," "Save the Last Dance for Me," and the title song), Ike Turner had produced a batch of typical Ike & Tina material, including remakes of their early-‘60s hits "A Fool in Love," "I Idolize You," and "It's Gonna Work Out Fine." Turner's simple, direct R&B production style has nothing in common with Spector's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style, so the resulting collection is full of odd juxtapositions in sound. But no matter who's in the producer's chair, the center of the music is still Tina Turner, emoting for all she's worth.[allmusic]

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

SAM COOKE - HITS OF THE 50's (RCA VICTOR 1960) Jap Blu-Spec cd cardboard sleeve

Sam Cooke was the most important soul singer in history -- he was also the inventor of soul music, and its most popular and beloved performer in both the black and white communities. Equally important, he was among the first modern black performers and composers to attend to the business side of the music business, and founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as a singer and composer. Yet, those business interests didn't prevent him from being engaged in topical issues, including the struggle over civil rights, the pitch and intensity of which followed an arc that paralleled Cooke's emergence as a star -- his own career bridged gaps between black and white audiences that few had tried to surmount, much less succeeded at doing, and also between generations; where Chuck Berry or Little Richard brought black and white teenagers together, James Brown sold records to white teenagers and black listeners of all ages, and Muddy Waters got young white folkies and older black transplants from the South onto the same page, Cooke appealed to all of the above, and the parents of those white teenagers as well -- yet he never lost his credibility with his core black audience. In a sense, his appeal anticipated that of the Beatles, in breadth and depth.
Sam Cooke's second RCA album is mostly a missed opportunity, in terms of representing much about Sam Cooke as an artist or singer -- having him cover pop hits of the previous decade wasn't a terrible idea on its face, but Cooke was still getting accustomed to working at RCA, and he wasn't inspired by the material or the way it was chosen, and the result is an album aimed at what the label thought the white teenage market was all about (and what the company thought the parents of those kids would be most comfortable with them buying from a black recording artist), that's a lot less interesting than some of the singles, including "Chain Gang" and "Wonderful World," that he was doing around the same time. His versions of hits associated with Nat "King" Cole, Johnnie Ray, and the Platters should have made for a more interesting record. Hits of the Fifties is still an improvement over its immediate predecessor, Cooke's Tour, but it's also one of the records that for many years -- in the absence of his best material being available -- blighted Cooke's reputation as a soul singer.[allmusic]

SAM COOKE - THE BEST OF (RCA VICTOR 1962) Jap Blu-Spec cd cardboard sleeve

This original 1962 LP compilation is the perfect introduction to the soulful pop of Sam Cooke. It contains all of his best-loved songs in their original versions and represents the wide variety of moods the man conjured with his music. His unique vocal style combined the smooth, tasteful pop approach of Nat King Cole with a grittier, more emotive soul sound.
His compositions brought those two worlds together in a similar manner, the worksong providing fodder for the melodic pop of "Chain Gang," for example. "You Send Me" is the ultimate expression of romantic rapture, while "Sad Mood" is the most mournful of lost-love songs. Somehow, even when capturing a sense of celebration ("Having A Party," "Twistin' The Night Away") there's still a subtle twinge of sadness in Cooke's expressive voice, giving his performances an extra layer of depth.
Originally released in August 1962 under the title The Best of Sam Cooke, Volume 1 [RCA 2625], this album was reissued in 1965 as The Best of Sam Cooke [RCA 3466, later RCA 3863]. An above-average greatest hits collection, although no sampler could fully convey Sam Cooke's genius. It has since been reissued on CD [RCA 3863], so at least it's still in print.

Sunday, 12 February 2012


One of America's most popular entertainers long after her mid-'40s commercial peak, Dinah Shore was the first major vocalist to break away from the big-band format and begin a solo-billed career. During the '40s, she recorded several of the decade's biggest singles -- "Buttons and Bows," "The Gypsy," and "I'll Walk Alone" -- all of which spent more than a month at number one on the Hit Parade. After launching a television variety series in 1951, Shore appeared on one program or another, with few gaps, into the 1980s.
Born in rural Tennessee, Dinah Shore was performing on Nashville radio while still a teenager. Her professional career later took her to New York, where she sang with Xavier Cugat. After failing auditions with Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey however, she decided to simply become a solo singer. Shore signed to Bluebird, and recorded several hits during 1940-41, including "Yes, My Darling Daughter," "I Hear a Rhapsody" and "Jim." Her first million-seller came in 1942 with the prototypical blues crossover nugget, "Blues in the Night." Later that year, she moved to Victor and hit big with "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" and her first number one hit, 1944's "I'll Walk Alone." Shore also began appearing in films, including 1944's Up in Arms and 1946's Till the Clouds Roll By.
The late '40s proved to be her most popular era for recording. Between 1946 and 1949, she hit big with several songs, including "The Gypsy," "I Love You for Sentimental Reasons," "Anniversary Song," "I Wish I Didn't Love You So," "Buttons and Bows" and "Dear Hearts and Gentle People." Though her records didn't chart as high during the '50s, Dinah Shore enjoyed even more exposure with her top-rated variety show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show. For many, Shore's opening and closing every show with "See the USA in your Chevrolet, America's the greatest land of all" practically defined the '50s. Her Chevrolet sponsorship lasted until 1963, but she returned in the '70s with a new format, the daytime talk-show. During the 1980s, she began performing once again, but returned to television once more with a series that ran for two years. She died of cancer in 1994.[allmusic]

LITTLE WALTER - THE BEST OF [His First Album] (CHESS 1957) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 3 bonus

If there's a blues harmonica player alive today who doesn't have a copy of this landmark album in their collection, they're either lying or had their copy of it stolen by another harmonica player. This 12-song collection is the one that every harmonica player across the board cut their teeth on. All the hits are here: "My Babe," "Blues with a Feeling," "You Better Watch Yourself," "Off the Wall," "Mean Old World" and the instrumental that catapulted him from the sideman chair in Muddy Waters' band to the top of the R&B charts in 1952, "Juke." Walter's influence to this very day is so pervasive over the landscape of the instrument that this collection of singles is truly: 1) one of the all-time greatest blues harmonica albums, 2) one of the all-time greatest Chicago blues albums, and 3) one of the first ten albums you should purchase if you're building your blues collection from the ground floor up.[allmusic]

LEE DORSEY - YA! YA! (FURY 1962) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 4 bonus

Lee Dorsey epitomized the loose, easygoing charm of New Orleans R&B perhaps more than any other artist of the '60s. Working with legendary Crescent City producer/writer Allen Toussaint, Dorsey typically offered good-time party tunes with a playful sense of humor and a loping, funky backbeat. Even if he's remembered chiefly for the signature hit "Working in a Coalmine," it was a remarkably consistent and winning combination for the vast majority of his recording career.
Lee Dorsey, the world's funkiest auto mechanic, topped the R&B charts in 1961 with "Ya Ya," a bit of bubblegum soul arranged by Allen Toussaint that exemplifies the sound of his early-'60s Fury recordings. Dorsey was an important and commercially successful product of the New Orleans R&B scene with a sound as distinctive as Fats Domino, and one look at the track list of this 16-track anthology tells you everything you need to know: "Eenie Meenie Mini Mo," "Ixie Dixie Pixie Pie," "Chin Chin," "Yum Yum" (et cetera). Uncluttered grooves, economical horn riffs, playground rhymes and Dorsey's unmistakable voice add up to an appealingly simple formula that yielded one of the most enduring oldies of its era and its similar but lower-charting follow-up, "Do Re Mi." Only "Give Me Your Love," a ballad that uses the ubiquitous R&B triplets Kay Starr disparagingly termed "the claw," breaks the pattern.Ya Ya was digitally mastered from the original tapes and features some first-time stereo...[allmusic]